Why Do Roman Catholics Think that Mary Didn’t Have Pain During Childbirth?

One belief that is common in Roman Catholicism today is that Jesus was born without Mary suffering any pain. While sometimes Roman Catholics think that this fits with the concept of Mary being immaculately conceived, when we examine this doctrine prior to the acceptance of the view of Mary’s immaculate conception, we see some slightly different justifications.

Article 6. Whether Christ was born without His Mother suffering?

Objection 1. It would seem that Christ was not born without His Mother suffering. For just as man’s death was a result of the sin of our first parents, according to Genesis 2:17: “In what day soever ye shall eat, ye shall [Vulgate: ‘thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt] die”; so were the pains of childbirth, according to Genesis 3:16: “In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children.” But Christ was willing to undergo death. Therefore for the same reason it seems that His birth should have been with pain.

Objection 2. Further, the end is proportionate to the beginning. But Christ ended His life in pain, according to Isaiah 53:4: “Surely . . . He hath carried our sorrows.” Therefore it seems that His nativity was not without the pains of childbirth.

Objection 3. Further, in the book on the birth of our Saviour [Protevangelium Jacobi xix, xx] it is related that midwives were present at Christ’s birth; and they would be wanted by reason of the mother’s suffering pain. Therefore it seems that the Blessed Virgin suffered pain in giving birth to her Child.

On the contrary, Augustine says (Serm. de Nativ. [Supposititious), addressing himself to the Virgin-Mother: “In conceiving thou wast all pure, in giving birth thou wast without pain.”

I answer that, The pains of childbirth are caused by the infant opening the passage from the womb. Now it has been said above (28, 2, Replies to objections), that Christ came forth from the closed womb of His Mother, and, consequently, without opening the passage. Consequently there was no pain in that birth, as neither was there any corruption; on the contrary, there was much joy therein for that God-Man “was born into the world,” according to Isaiah 35:1-2: “Like the lily, it shall bud forth and blossom, and shall rejoice with joy and praise.”

Reply to Objection 1. The pains of childbirth in the woman follow from the mingling of the sexes. Wherefore (Genesis 3:16) after the words, “in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children,” the following are added: “and thou shalt be under thy husband’s power.” But, as Augustine says (Serm. de Assumpt. B. Virg., [Supposititious), from this sentence we must exclude the Virgin-Mother of God; who, “because she conceived Christ without the defilement of sin, and without the stain of sexual mingling, therefore did she bring Him forth without pain, without violation of her virginal integrity, without detriment to the purity of her maidenhood.” Christ, indeed, suffered death, but through His own spontaneous desire, in order to atone for us, not as a necessary result of that sentence, for He was not a debtor unto death.

Reply to Objection 2. As “by His death” Christ “destroyed our death” [Preface of the Mass in Paschal-time, so by His pains He freed us from our pains; and so He wished to die a painful death. But the mother’s pains in childbirth did not concern Christ, who came to atone for our sins. And therefore there was no need for His Mother to suffer in giving birth.

Reply to Objection 3. We are told (Luke 2:7) that the Blessed Virgin herself “wrapped up in swaddling clothes” the Child whom she had brought forth, “and laid Him in a manger.” Consequently the narrative of this book, which is apocryphal, is untrue. Wherefore Jerome says (Adv. Helvid. iv): “No midwife was there, no officious women interfered. She was both mother and midwife. ‘With swaddling clothes,’ says he, ‘she wrapped up the child, and laid Him in a manger.'” These words prove the falseness of the apocryphal ravings.

– Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Third Part, Question 35, Article 6

As you can see, the justifications are:

1) Birth pangs result from sin due to the mingling of the sexes. Christ was not born from sexual intercourse, and Mary was not therefore, stained by that sin, and did not suffer the punishment for that sin. Pseud-Augustine is cited in support of this idea. “Supposititious” is the editor’s way of noting that the work is not really something Augustine wrote, though Aquinas mistakenly believed it was.

2) Mary didn’t have to suffer, because Mary didn’t come to atone for our sins. What a marvelously clear rejection of the modern Roman doctrine of the co-redemption of Mary!

3) Aquinas rejects the idea that there were midwives present, rejecting the Protevangelium of James (Protevangelium Jacobi) as “apocryphal ravings.”

4) Aquinas mistakenly thinks that Augustine taught that Mary didn’t suffer birth pangs.

5) But most of all, because Jesus was not born the normal way, according to Aquinas: he did not come out through the birth canal. This preserves Mary as a virgin, something she would not physically be after a normal birth for reasons that are obvious to anyone who understands anatomy.


8 Responses to “Why Do Roman Catholics Think that Mary Didn’t Have Pain During Childbirth?”

  1. natamllc Says:

    Why don't we just keep on going and rewrite everything natural then? It seems to me with these ideas there is a stage being set for the "return" of Mary instead of Christ?I have to say the slant again, the trajectory, is against the Will and Purposes of God in that this simply undergirds that direction Rome clearly was heading and to date, has ended up at. To which, many, then when touched by God, flee that place to the restful spiritual high place of Christ in you, the Hope of Glory!Eph 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, Eph 2:5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– Eph 2:6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, Eph 2:7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. One should clearly understand this argument as rebellion indeed seeing it contradicts the mystery given to Paul, here:::>Eph 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, Eph 1:8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight Eph 1:9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ Eph 1:10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. By making Mary out to be other than all other women in childbirth, it seems to me points the mind away from the "plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth."Now who do you suppose would want to do that sort of thing but the Devil himself?I have to say again, as with other matters of the RCC, this too is a doctrine of demons one should flee from and not adhere to!

  2. Godismyjudge Says:

    Could you clarify Augustine's comment?God be with you,Dan

  3. Turretinfan Says:

    That is not Augustine, though Aquinas mistakenly cites it as such.

  4. Alphonsus Says:

    You know, Aquinas' opinion on any given matter is not automatically Catholic Dogma. Why not cite something more authoritative (e.g. the universal catechism)? There's no point in attacking stawmen…

  5. Turretinfan Says:

    Not every teaching of Catholicism is defined dogma, as I mentioned on the other page.In this regard, Aquinas' main argument is connected with the present teachings of Rome:CCC499 The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary's real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man.154 In fact, Christ's birth "did not diminish his mother's virginal integrity but sanctified it."155 And so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the "Ever-virgin".156 And, as I have pointed out before: Aquinas denied the immaculate conception (which is a defined dogma) and promoted a view of the primacy of Scripture akin to that of the Reformers and at odds with the teachings of modern Rome. So, I agree that just because Aquinas says something doesn't make it the teaching of Rome.-TurretinFan

  6. Turretinfan Says:

    But in case you need papal authority:Pope Alexander III (1169) wrote: "Mary conceived without shame, gave birth without pain, and has departed from earth without undergoing the corruption of the tomb, thus proving – according to the word of the angel – that she was full of grace and nothing less. (Alexandre III, Ep. 'Ex litteris tuis' ad soldanum Iconiiresidentem, 1169: "(Maria) concepit nempe sine pudore, peperit sine dolore, et hinc migravit sine corruptione, iuxta verbum angeli, immo Dei per angelum, ut plena, non semiplena, gratiae esse probaretur; et (ut) Deus Filius eius antiquum quod pridem docuit mandatum fideliter adimpleret, videlicet patrem et matrem honore praevenire, et ne caro Christi virginea, quae de carne matris virginis assumpta fuerat, a tota discreparet." as reported in Denzinger-Schoenmetzer, 1963, no. 748).-TurretinFan

  7. Alphonsus Says:

    'CCC499 The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary's real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man.154 In fact, Christ's birth "did not diminish his mother's virginal integrity but sanctified it."155 And so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the "Ever-virgin".156'That statement means she was always a virgin. It's not a physiological statement about whether the hymen remained intact or whether Mary experienced pain in labor (which, I believe, were the issues at hand). Ludwig Ott's "Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma" (from 50+ years ago) denied that the perpetual virginity of Mary through the birth of Christ necessarily meant that the hymen wasn't broken."Not every teaching of Catholicism is defined dogma, as I mentioned on the other page."You'll need to clarify what you mean by that. By "teaching" do you mean obligatory belief or pious "lower-case t" tradition. The nice thing about Ott's book is that it distinguishes Catholic beliefs based on their relative certitude/obligatory nature. Something "de fide," for example must be held on pain of heresy. Are you familiar with Ott's work or something similar, because I think that might do a lot facilitate this discussion.http://www.amazon.com/Fundamentals-Catholic-Dogma-Ludwig-Ott/dp/0895550091/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1250193344&sr=8-1

  8. Turretinfan Says:

    Ludwig Ott's comments on the subject are interesting, but he does not outright deny the matter. He seems to have overlooked the other arguments for a miraculous birth as well as the teachings of catechism of the council of Trent on the subject. He also does not appear to have been aware of the papal letter I refer to in my other post (link).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: